Every second, 37,000 local searches are performed on Google. How can you ensure that your business pops up on the first page of results when potential customers search for a service or product you offer?
The answer is by utilizing local SEO ranking tactics. When you serve a specific area, having a local SEO ranking strategy can mean the difference between your business growing or struggling to stay afloat.
What factors do Google and other search engines consider when ranking sites for search queries?
Let’s look at the most important local SEO ranking factors and how you can boost your traffic, leads, and sales by implementing a local SEO strategy.
Google Business Profile (GMB)
As the most frequently used search engine globally, one of the primary goals of local SEO is to show up on the first page of Google search results for relevant searches and keywords. To rank in local results, you will need to claim your business listing in Google and optimize your Google Business Profile (formally known as Google My Business and still often referred to as GMB.) In fact, Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Study found that your GMB profile is the number one factor that impacts your search result ranking.
If you want to grab the number one spot in The Map Pack (the three results that show up on the map when you search for a local business on Google), you’ll want to prioritize optimizing your GMB. For more info about ranking on Google Maps, check out our guide.
Make Sure Your NAP Is Consistent Across the Web
One of the most important things to keep in mind when filling out your GMB is that consistency is vital. You will want to make sure that all of the information you enter into your GMB matches the information on your website and citations found on other sites.
Google will look to see if your business info is the same between your Google my Business Profile, your website, and third-party sites. However, differences in your address, phone number, or business name between GMB, your site, and third-party sites (for example, Yelp) will mean that Google views the legitimacy of your business with more skepticism.
To ensure that Google views your business as legitimate and trustworthy, you must prioritize updating your business NAP info across the web if you move locations, change your name, or get a new phone number.
Even discrepancies as seemingly inconsequential as having your address written as “Elm Street” on one site and “Elm St.” on another can create confusion for Google. As a best practice, ensure that all of your information is identical everywhere it’s listed on the web.
The More Information You Give Google, the Better
When you’re completing your Google Business Profile, you’ll want to give Google as much information as possible.
Choosing primary and secondary categories is something that local businesses often miss, which puts them at a considerable disadvantage. The secondary categories, in particular, will directly influence which searches and keywords bring up your business on Google search results. For example, the “Services” and “Products” categories give Google more information about what your business offers to its customers, which can, in turn, help you rank for relevant local searches.
Prioritize Keeping Your Online Information Up-to-Date
You also want to ensure that all of your information online is absolutely 100% up-to-date.
If you are changing your hours for a holiday, you should update your hours online as soon as possible. Customers need to know that they can trust the information about your business online. If they see that you’re open and show up only to find that you’re closed, there’s a good chance you’ll lose that customer and maybe earn yourself a negative review online.
Speaking of customer reviews, your online reviews are also a critical part of how well you rank for relevant Google search results. As you might imagine, negative reviews can hurt your ranking, and positive reviews can give you a boost. Though Google’s methodologies aren’t precisely known, it’s thought that they also use reviews from third-party sites to determine your site’s ranking in relation to your competitors.
After all, what do you do when you’re looking for a new restaurant to try out? Chances are, you search on Google for the type of restaurant you want to go to in your area, and you start checking out the reviews left by other customers. When we’re deciding between an eatery with hundreds of positive reviews and another with three not-so-hot reviews, most of us will choose the former without even giving it a second thought.
Your local SEO ranking is impacted by the total number, quality, diversity, and frequency of reviews you have on Google and likely across the web. For this reason, local SEO campaigns often focus on encouraging happy customers to leave reviews on the most popular review sites on the web.
Also, don’t forget to respond to your customer reviews, both positive and negative. Not only can this help your local SEO ranking, but it can also show potential customers that you are engaged, professional, and eager to keep your clientele happy.
As we discussed above, consistency in your online contact information should be a huge priority. Your GMB profile, website, local listings sites, and business directories should all have your information exactly the same. When you build consistent citations for your business across the web, it can help search engines verify that your company is legitimate and trustworthy. According to the Moz study referenced above, citations are the fifth most important local SEO ranking factor.
Online citations come in both structured and unstructured forms. Structured citations include social media profiles and directory listings where your name, address, and phone number are displayed in a consistent format across the site or platform. On the other hand, unstructured citations are when your business information is mentioned contextually, such as in a press release, local news article, forum post, or blog post.
Few business owners have the time to submit their info to thousands of websites. Instead of making building citations a full-time job, you can submit your info to the core sites (Google, Apple Maps, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) and then sign up for data aggregators that will distribute your information to hundreds of sites around the web.
So far, we’ve been talking about ways to boost your search ranking off of your site. However, many on-page factors are also important when search engines decide where to rank your site.
On-page SEO is any information found on your site that can help boost your search rankings. That includes strategically using relevant keywords in headers, alt tags, meta descriptions, title tags, optimizing your landing page, etc.
While a lot of local SEO focuses on ranking in “The Map Pack,” it’s essential not to overlook traditional ranking factors and SEO tactics used by online, national, and international businesses alike. The better your ranking is in organic search results, the higher position you’ll find your business in The Map Pack.
Your chances of ranking also improve when you receive high-quality backlinks from reliable websites or sources. However, getting backlinks from untrustworthy or spammy sites can actually hurt your Google search result ranking.
Locally Relevant Content
When you’re trying to boost your local SEO ranking, drive traffic to your site, find qualified leads, and increase sales, content is foundational for achieving your goals. Not only does the content your site publishes help search engines determine that your site should rank highly for relevant keywords, but it also helps you gain fans and followers online.
Behavioral Ranking Signals
There are numerous behavioral signals that Google’s search algorithms utilize to rank search results. But what exactly are behavioral signals?
These signals indicate how users engage and interact with your business listings and site. Google learns whether your business and site are legitimate, reputable, reliable, and useful through this information. Let’s look at some of the behavioral ranking signals that search engines like Google take into account.
Pages Per Session
One of the things that search engines will look at is the number of pages people view on your site before heading elsewhere on the web. You want to prioritize keeping users on your site by offering compelling content and easy-to-find links between pages. A higher number of pages per session and a longer retention time will help boost your local SEO ranking.
Potentially the most important behavioral factor that Google takes into account is the click-through rate (CTR) or your search results listing. The CTR is the rate that users click on your website’s link compared to the users presented with your site link and choose not to click on it. The higher your CTR, the more it indicates to Google that people have an interest in your brand and site.
Congrats, a user has finally ended up on your site! However, how easily can they find what they’re looking for once they’re there? Is the information they need easily accessible or do they have to roll their sleeves up and perform an archeological excavation to find your offerings, hours, or location?
The fact of the matter is that you likely aren’t the only business in your area offering the product or service you sell. If you don’t make it quick and easy for people to locate what they’re looking for, there’s a good chance they’ll leave your site in search of a website that gives them what they need with less work.
This means that you need to create an organized website that makes navigation intuitive and easy. You’ll also want to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly so people on the go can find the information they seek without breaking a sweat.
How fast your website loads is also significant when you want to rank as highly as possible on search results pages. If a potential customer clicks on your site only to find that it takes too long to load, they’ll probably backtrack and look at one of your competitors.
Your site’s bounce rate is the percentage of users that return to the search results page immediately after going to your site’s landing page. This can happen for many reasons, such as having a site that loads too slowly or not having the information they’re looking for readily available. To rank as highly as possible in search results, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure visitors don’t bounce off your site as soon as they arrive.
Responsive Web Design
These days, businesses can’t get away with having a site that isn’t responsive. Responsive web design refers to a site built to display correctly and professionally on devices of all types and sizes.
This is particularly important when it comes to local SEO ranking. After all, where do you search when you’re out on the town and need to grab a bite to eat or run to the hardware store? On your smartphone, of course.
Not only does having responsive web design help your customers find you when they need you, but Google uses the mobile version of sites for both indexing and ranking.
Personalization Ranking Signals
According to the Moz study referenced earlier, personalization signals make up 9% of SEO ranking factors. Personalization refers to how well your business, content, and site are maximized for a targeted audience.
Optimizing your web presence for personalization means creating relevant content for the demographic most likely to find value in the products or services you offer. Google is constantly collecting data about its millions of users, and it will personalize search results based on factors such as their location and primary language.
Personalization signals are generally more relevant to traditional SEO than local SEO, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage. Of course, the primary way you can utilize how Google incorporates personalization signals into their ranking is by creating locale-specific content. For example, if you service several different areas, you’ll want to create separate SEO-focused landing pages for each location.
Another way that you can use Google’s focus on personalization is by utilizing a multilingual SEO strategy if you live in a multicultural city. For example, 42% of the overall population of Los Angeles are native Spanish speakers. If you operate a small business in the LA area, having your business information in Spanish and English can help you reach a broader local audience.
Is It Time for You to Boost Your Local Search Ranking?
As you can see, local SEO ranking factors comprise a complex and interactive web. Properly optimizing your site and web presence can practically be a full-time job, which is why so many local businesses struggle to receive the search rankings they desire. After all, you want to focus your time and energy on the thing you do best: running your small business.
That’s where we come in. At OneLocal, we offer all of your marketing needs in one place. Since we focus solely on helping local businesses grow, you can trust that our experts will help you reach your business goals.
Are you ready to implement the right strategy to increase the online visibility of your business? If so, check out our Local SEO services here.